I am not the first nor will I be the last mother to face the dilemma of work vs. parenting. At 27 when I was pregnant with my first son, I had every intention of returning to my full-time job at a local nonprofit. I loved my job, I felt like I was making a difference in my community, I had a purpose, and I was paid for it! I delayed my maternity leave as long as possible so that I could wring the most time with my baby out of those 12 weeks before coming back.
When he arrived...I was done for. I was absolutely obsessed with this tiny human and in disbelief that I was expected to drop him off and let a practical stranger bottle feed him while I pumped in private at work. I was flabbergasted that I would need to pay $700+ per month for childcare while making just that per paycheck. I searched desperately for childcare that was more cost effective, but still loving and kind...no one was accepting babies so young. A month passed, and the closer we got to that 3 month mark, the more ridiculous leaving my tiny baby seemed. I couldn't possibly trust this fragile creature with someone less invested in him than I am! So, there we were. Unprepared for the loss of my paycheck, with no childcare options I felt comfortable with, and nothing left to do but resign from my previous position.
(My firstborn. Photo: Whitney Green Photography)
Fast forward a few months. Motherhood consumed me. My entire existence was laundry, nursing, cleaning, keeping baby happy, figuring out teething vs. illness symptoms, dealing with diaper blowouts, cleaning spit up from my hair. Who was I anymore? I was experiencing mild Postpartum Depression, and feeling like I was standing still while my friends around me continued to grow in their lives and professions.
I had been an artist since I was a child. I painted with acrylics somewhat regularly even through my working adult life, always keeping art supplies handy. With this baby though, painting seemed like another chore that I just didn't want to add to my plate. While at the coast with my mom, I stumbled upon Stefan Kunz. He's this amazing typographer, his work is dynamic and beautiful. I was immediately obsessed and started searching for other lettering artists. At this point, instagram had just been a place to connect with my friends, suddenly it opened up to reveal an entire artistic community! I picked up a pen and paper, and never looked back.
Over the remainder of 2016 I honed my skills in calligraphy and lettering, and they've continued to improve and change since then. In the winter of 2016 I met a dozen photographers at a shoot-out, as well as some rental companies, and suddenly I had a marketable skill in the wedding industry which was in demand in my area. I could work again, I could contribute to my family's finances again! Not only had I finally found a medium which allowed me to express myself creatively on a DAILY basis, but it was VALUABLE.
This is not to say my time spent solely parenting wasn't valuable. There's nothing I treasure more than quality time with my children. But in addition to the daily stresses of running a household and caring for children, we had the financial stress from living on a single income. I now had an identity outside of motherhood. I met new people, made friends, and reached an audience on social media far beyond my little community in Southern Oregon.
I felt like I had a direction again, and I was chasing a dream, after feeling like I was at a standstill for so long.
(Continued in part 2, listed below)